While Brett Ratner might carry name-recognition as a filmmaker, those still weeping over the muddled mess that was X-Men: The Last Stand would likely consider the phrase “From the director of Rush Hour” to be less of a ringing endorsement and more of a thinly veiled threat. Yes, he of the blindingly glossy buddy-comedy and impossibly uneven pacing sat back in the director’s chair, for the first time since 2007, to try his hand at a bright and breezy, credit-crunch crime caper.

At the time of its theatrical release, when the OWS movement was at its zenith, comparisons were liberally thrown around of this amiable attempt by B-list movie stars to embody populist pain as a blue-collar Ocean’s 11. Those comparisons are flattering, but Tower Heist is such a watered down affair – Trump Tower in for Vegas and Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in for George Clooney and Brad Pitt – that they ultimately only serve to undermine what is on display, which is nowhere near as clever, as fun, or as funny as it thinks it is.

Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, the buttoned down building manager of a luxury apartment block scheming to rob the disgraced investor, Arthur Shaw, (Alan Alda) of $20,000,000 believed is hidden in Shaw’s Penthouse apartment after he sunk the staff’s pension fund into his exposed ponzi scheme. Together with his brother-in-law and father-to-be, Charlie (Affleck), new elevator operator, Enrique (Pena), soon to be evicted former stockbroker, Mr. Fitzhugh (Broderick), a sassy maid (Sidibe) and a motor mouth ex-con (Murphy), they must figure a way in past the FBI, find the stash, and get back out again without getting caught.

Typical of Ratner, the movie moves at a snails pace until it doesn’t, at which point it’s a relentless race to the finish with such tiny considerations as character consistency, narrative cohesion, and sheer plausibility tossed right out of the penthouse window. Thematically we’re sticking it to the rich, but structurally we’re sticking it to anyone who insists that stories retain certain internal logic. Sorely lacking in actual laugh – unless you consider attempted suicide funny? – Tower Heist is at its essence a swirling soup of wildly disparate elements that never really come together.

The final act, revolving around efforts to get a vintage Ferrari out of a top-floor skyscraper apartment, during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without anyone noticing, doesn’t just defy logic, it defies physics. That’s indicative of what is perhaps the chief indictment of Tower Heist, in that it lazily confuses clever heist mechanics with those that are literally impossible, and then rather than attempting to offer an explanation how these might have been accomplished, is content to simply have them occur off-screen.

The characters, thinly drawn as they are, exist only to service a plot that is in itself entirely serviceable. Between Charlie’s endless hand-wringing about his pregnant wife, and Broderick’s manically depressed banker, it’s not so much that these guys are not on the same page but that they’re in different libraries. Ben Stiller is overly earnest as an everyman, refusing to even crack a smile never mind a joke, while Eddie Murphy’s foul-mouthed petty crook is beamed in from another movie entirely. Although anyone who has been dying to know just how many N-words you can get away with in a PG-13 rated movie can now sleep soundly at night with their answer – two, apparently.

Blu-ray Special Features:

This blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes Universal’s split-screen feature, offering an interactive viewing experience controlled with a downloadable app. Also on the disc is a feature length commentary track with Ratner, editor Mark Helfrich, and co-writers Ted Griffin & Jeff Nathanson. Also included are the customary gag reel and vault of deleted scenes, along with the Tower Heist video diary and the Plotting Tower Heist featurette.

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